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Ψ // How Nature Heals

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

Experiencing Awe in Nature, A Meaning Making Process

"When sailing, hiking, diving, swimming, or just standing in Nature, I get to feel inner peace, I tent to see it as a divine state, where I sense that I belong here, that I am gratefull for the present moment, and to Nature.​"

What can help one make sense of their lives, find a purpose might be found in what Keltner et al., (2003) would call as a "transcendental experience", in other words, the “awe” experience. As to them awe experience can be gained in contemplating nature. Doing so, being completely devoted to it, caring, observing, contemplating, trying to make sense of it will engage oneself in a self-transcendent experience and as a result this would arouse our sense of meaning.

- So what is "Awe"? -

Feeling of awe is an aesthetic pleasure that emerge from the view of majestic aspects of nature.  Theorist have defined awe as a state that involves being in the presence of something powerful, that raises interest, surprise and wonder, while at the same time raises a sense of difficulty in trying to comprehend it and a feeling of confusion and submission. As to Keltner et.al, (2003), we experience awe in response to natural objects that we encounter, such as mountains, falls, oceans, storms, vistas.The infinite repetition in some nature object can raise awe, such as waves, trees forests, deserts, sky contemplation.Those that intrigue us, overpass us, go beyond and somehow escape us.

- What does happen during "Awe"? -

When experiencing such beautiful stimulus, we tend to make sense of the visual scene, and as we do so we experience awe (Keltner et.al, 2003).To most theorists, awe involves an ambivalent feel of the presence of something powerful, along with feelings of submission to it.While feeling awe, one will be savoring the beauty of the moment, one will also try to make sense and comprehend its experience and as he progresses he would feel a mixed sense of confusion, surprise and wonder.

- How to engage in "Awe"? -

In their research, Keltner et.al, (2003) posit that for one to experience awe, one must experience both “vastness” and “accommodation”.Vastness is for instance experienced when we are faced with something much larger than our ordinary frame of reference. Vastness can be found in the size scales, but also in the sound, the feel or any symbolic marker of immensity. Nature is the perfect ground for experiencing awe, as it is indeed where most sources of vastness can be found. (moutains, sees, sky…)Accommodation refers to our human natural process of mental adjustment, where one need to adjust some mental structures in order to assimilate the new experience (Piaget & Inherlder, 1966/2000). This accommodation process implies a feeling of enlightenment and even rebirth because our mental structures expand to accommodate this new truth that had never been known.By connecting to nature and feeling its sense of infinity and permanence, while being intrigued by its power we will enter an “awe” experience.​

-   Let’s Go Outdoors and Engage in "Awe"!   -

Contemplating, connecting, melting with nature can help us put our high speed, fragmented and ever-changing life in perspective. Indeed, by relying on the immensity and permanence of nature we can find calm, stability, put our lives in perspectives and start the process of making sense of it. As to Baumeister (1991), meaning is finally the ability for people to identify with permanent and stable elements.Our surrounding nature provides us with everyday opportunities to experience self -transcendence. Awe, as a self-transcendent experience will help us gain a broader sense of purpose, meaning which in the end would lead to an enhanced well-being.​Two of the process described above and that contribute to making meaning the “accommodation process” and the “biophilia theory” are part of our biological heritage. By being core to all human beings, it appears that the experience of awe and the opportunity for finding meaning are at everyone’s reach.

So, when are you going out next?

​- ML

#naturetherapy #positivepsychology #biophilia #mindfulness #experienceawe #awakening #myeartheart


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